Inside Andrew Cuomo’s history of ‘bullying’ foes, staffers

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s alleged threat to “destroy” state Assemblyman Ron Kim over criticism of the spiraling nursing home scandal is just the latest example of the governor’s well-known penchant for bullying political foes, according to sources and a published report.

The Democrat has built such a reputation for threatening adversaries — and berating employees — that Mayor Bill de Blasio, another fellow Democrat who is a frequent target of the fury, last week characterized Kim’s claim as “classic Andrew Cuomo.”

Though now in his third term as governor, Cuomo’s no-holds-barred approach to politics was on display as early as his first, according to New York political insiders.

At the wedding of two former administration staffers during the governor’s first term, one speaker asked during a toast how many attendees had been bullied by Cuomo at some point — then watched as hands shot up across the room, a guest told The Post on condition of anonymity.

That anecdote is one of several also compiled in a New York Times piece published Monday, for which dozens of lawmakers, former Cuomo administration staffers and veterans of the political arena were interviewed.

An insider said that Andrew Cuomo refers to his top female aides as "mean girls."
An insider said that Andrew Cuomo refers to his top female aides as “mean girls.”
Matthew McDermott

“His primary tool for governing is to create fear,” Karen Hinton told The Times.

Hinton served as a communications consultant for Cuomo during his stint as federal housing secretary under President Bill Clinton, but found herself on the receiving end of his wrath after becoming a spokeswoman for de Blasio.

When Hinton questioned the state’s response to a 2015 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City, Cuomo told City Hall that he would hold de Blasio accountable for any fatalities unless Hinton was fired, according to the Times.

Though Hinton kept her job, the de Blasio administration distanced itself from her critiques of Cuomo.

Three years later, after the Working Families Party-backed Cynthia Nixon in an unsuccessful primary challenge to Cuomo, a party leader begrudgingly agreed to endorse Cuomo because he was a preferable candidate to a Republican.

“If you ever say, ‘Well he’s better than a Republican’ again, then I’m going to say, ‘You’re better than a child rapist,’” Cuomo responded, according to the Times, which cited two sources who were on the phone call. “How about that?”

And when a staffer once failed to transfer a call to Cuomo’s office, the governor threatened to end their career, a source told The Times.

The same insider said that Cuomo refers to his top female aides as “mean girls.”

More recently, Cuomo’s aggressive micromanagement spurred the resignation of widely loved New York City Transit President Andy Byford in early 2020.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
‘His primary tool for governing is to create fear,’ former consultant Karen Hinton said.
Matthew McDermott

After his exit, Byford said that Cuomo made his job “intolerable,” particularly bristling at the fact his staff was being “yelled at” by the governor.

And later in the year, former staffer Lindsey Boylan publicly trashed the “toxic” work environment she endured under Cuomo, and later accused the governor of sexual harassment, a charge that the governor has strongly denied.

Boylan told the Times that Cuomo is prone to throwing tantrums, “screaming at people inside and outside of the state government when he does not get exactly what he wants.”

Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s top spokesman, specifically denied the Hinton and Working Families Party allegations to the Times, and dismissed the critiques in general as the predictable attacks of political adversaries.

Azzopardi added that, while Cuomo may sometimes lose his cool, his constituents understand.

“The people of this state have known and given the Governor their trust for the last 14 years, have heard him and looked into his eyes during the darkest period,” said Azzopardi said in a statement. “Yes, they have seen him get impatient with partisan politics and disingenuous attacks, and New Yorkers feel the same way.

“They know you must fight to change the status quo and special interests to make progress and no one has made more progress than this governor,” he continued. “He is NY Tough and so are New Yorkers.”

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